Our meditations on Jesus in Gethsemane have seemed, no doubt, repulsively gloomy. They have been dark and heavy in their view of sin, the sinfulness of sin, and God's wrath on sin. It might seem that there is little value in such gloom.
But, who knows value? Might Jesus know? Might the Father know? Might they know better than we? What do their actions show about how they value Jesus' loathing of sin and wrath?
In Gethsemane, Jesus loathed sin and wrath to death, and the Father approved him for the contrition He worked on our behalf. This is contrition: not that we are contrite, but that Jesus was contrite on our behalf, and the Father credits his contrition to us. When we hear the proclamation of Christ's contrition for us, and believe that He was contrite and that it was for us, as a grace under the Gospel, God grants us entry into the contrition of Christ.
Jesus set his face to suffer this loathing and contrition for us and for our salvation. Has his work only little value? Was Jesus wasting himself? Was the Father wasting him?
The Father saw Jesus suffer this innocently for us. He saw Jesus dying in the garden because of his loathing of sin and wrath. The Father exalted him to sit at his right hand. Doesn't that say something about how the Father values Jesus' loathing sin, and loathing it for us?
Hiding our Faces
In Gethsemane, our sin attacked Jesus in his sympathy for us. In his holiness, He loathed sin to death. He did this to save us, and it shows what He saved us from: sin at heart in us, and wrath at heart in God. A central act of the central Man of history is his loathing of sin ... ours. We can try to neglect it, but then we are neglecting the central Man of history.
Jesus suffered "as one from whom men hide their faces." (Is 53:3) We must see his suffering, and not hide our faces from him.
The Acceptable Sacrifice
We may wonder, how can something so awful as loathing be precious. Things have value as God values them. God can say what is precious.
For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart These, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17)
In Hebrew, the word translated as “despise” is bazah (baw-zaw'). It means disesteem. The double negative “not despise” or “not disesteem” means, positively, what He does esteem, what He does value. This is what God will not despise, what God values, what is precious to him, what he accepts, what he receives: a broken spirit, a contrite heart.
Dwelling and Reviving
Because God esteems a contrite heart, He dwells with it and revives it.
For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (Isaiah 57:15)
These verses make promises, the promises of the Gospel. God promises to esteem, to value. He promises companionship, saying He “dwells with.” He promises new life, saying He revives. He promises these blessing not only as external circumstances. He promises these graces in the spirit and in the heart. Nothing but the Gospel could proclaim these promises. They are the Kingdom of God come near, even “within you.” (Luke 17:21)
Crushed to Powder
Our English Bibles translate several related Hebrew words as “contrite.” These words include daka, dakka, and dakah (dak-kaw’). The literal meaning of the second of these is “powder.” When used to speak of an action, these words mean to crumble, to bruise, to break in pieces, to crush, to destroy, to smite, to oppress, to beat to pieces, to dash to pieces. When used to speak of the effects of an action, they mean to collapse physically, to collapse mentally, to be humbled, to be contrite, to be brokenhearted. Think of a powdered heart, powdered over the sin. When Jesus felt our sin as if it were his, he collapsed and said he was dying. This, again, is what it was for Jesus to be, as Mark says, "sore amazed" in Gethsemane. His Father esteemed him highly because, over the feeling of our sin, when he loathed it, he was contrite with “godly fear.” (Hebrews 5:7)
Proof of God's Acceptance
We have many convincing proofs that God accepts a spirit crushed, a heart broken
over its sin. In the small space of this posting, I give you only a few of them.
Word of Promise
God uttered words of promise that he would accept a contrite heart. It may be easy to think that God’s name is his highest value. Jesus places “Hallowed be thy name” as the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer. Yet David said, “You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” (Psalm 138:2) God magnifies his name, but He magnifies his word above his name, and emphatically above “all my name.” Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) God’s word of promise to accept a contrite heart in us will endure the passing away of heaven and earth.
He Accepted It in Jesus
The Father accepted this in Jesus. Jesus was heard in Gethsemane for his godly fear. “In the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear.” (Hebrews 5:7) He will accept in us what he accepted in Jesus.
- He Prizes Jesus, and Accepts Those Who Prize Jesus
The Father accepts the heart that prizes Jesus. “A broken heart prizes Christ, and has an high esteem for Him.”1 The Father responds to us according to the way we respond to his Son. “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry.” (Psalm 2:12) “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 2:23) “The Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.” (John 16:27) The Father accepts the broken heart because it exalts his Son.
It Is His Own Work
A contrite heart is God’s own work. It is a sacrifice of his own preparing. He will accept his own work. He will accept the sacrifice that He prepared for himself. Abraham told Isaac, “God will provide himself a lamb.” (Genesis 22:8) “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26) The heart that he gives us he will accept in us.
In Gethsemane, Jesus told not only those 3 and 8 who were with him there, but all of us, "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation." To our Savior God, the Suffering Servant, watching and praying against temptation are precious. He will answer our prayer and deliver us from evil.
1 John Bunyan, The Acceptable Sacrifice: the Excellency of a Broken Heart, (Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: Destiny Image Publishers, 2001 modernization of the original 1688 edition), p. 61.